Holly Goldberg Sloan will present her new children’s book, “Appleblossom the Possum,” at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison this Thursday evening, October 1st, at 5:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public; reservations are preferred and can be made online or by calling the store at 203-245-3959. Location: 768 Boston Post Rd.
Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Holly Goldberg Sloan.
Ms. Sloan is the author of the recently released children’s book “Appleblossom the Possum” (Dial Books)—the follow-up to her New York Times bestselling middle-grade novel, “Counting by 7s.” A graduate of Wellesley College, she later began writing and directing family feature films including “Angels in the Outfield” and “Made in America.” Ms. Sloan was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and spent her childhood living in Holland, Istanbul, Turkey, Washington DC, Berkeley, California, and Eugene, Oregon. The mother of two sons, she now makes her home in Santa Monica, California with her husband.
Praise for “Appleblossom the Possum”:
“Readers will enjoy both the realistic details of a newborn possum making her way to her mother’s pouch, and the fanciful view of adult possums’ urban nightlife, complete with rooftop music and a conga line. . . . This attractive book will engage young readers intrigued by animals.”—Booklist
“Insights about possums add an educational element to this otherwise comic adventure, while humorous illustrations capture the wee possums’ antics and personalities. A warm and funny possum-family saga.”—Kirkus Reviews
“A perfectly sweet animal tale, with just the right blend of humor, excitement, and uncertainty.”—School Library Journal
“Amid the homey message that family matters most, Sloan seeds the story with assorted possum facts and vocabulary lessons, but it’s the possum-as-actor metaphor . . . that generates the most fun.”—Publishers Weekly
From the publisher:
Fans of E.B. White and Dick King-Smith will adore this heartwarming and funny animal adventure by the award-winning author of Counting by 7s
Mama has trained up her baby possums in the ways of their breed, and now it’s time for all of them—even little Appleblossom—to make their way in the world. Appleblossom knows the rules: she must never be seen during the day, and she must avoid cars, humans, and the dreaded hairies (sometimes known as dogs). Even so, Appleblossom decides to spy on a human family—and accidentally falls down their chimney! The curious Appleblossom, her faithful brothers—who launch a hilarious rescue mission—and even the little girl in the house have no idea how fascinating the big world can be. But they’re about to find out!
With dynamic illustrations, a tight-knit family, and a glimpse at the world from a charming little marsupial’s point of view, this cozy animal story is a perfect read-aloud and a classic in the making.
Now, Holly Goldberg Sloan entertains readers of a different demographic …
Hartford Books Examiner: What inspired you to write “Appleblossom the Possum” and how did your background in family films influence your creative vision?
Holly Goldberg Sloan: I love two things: Kids and animals. I have written for film and television and my work shows that I go to these subjects repeatedly. I think being a screenwriter (“Angels in the Outfield,” “Made in America,” “The Big Green”) has trained me to think in a visual way for storytelling. “Appleblossom the Possum” was born the night our rescue pitbull mix came in from the yard with a possum in her mouth. The animal was so large and obviously dead. It was stiff and smelled and my husband and I were very upset. We got the dog to drop the possum and then went to get a plastic bag to dispose of the poor thing. When we came back, the possum was gone. It was a shocker. The possum was playing possum. This opened up a whole world of possibilities for me in terms of telling a story. There was a victim. An attacker. A body. And then an unsolved crime.
HBE: The book has been compared to classics such as “Charlotte’s Web” and “Babe the Gallant Pig.” How do you see the story as paying homage to those that have come before it and in what ways do you feel that it offers a fresh twist on familiar themes?
HGS: “Charlotte’s Web” was my favorite book as a child and it has a special place in my heart. The themes in the book are timeless and to me profound: Life and death and everything in between. That book is about looking out for each other. Charlotte certainly does that for Wilbur the pig. “Appleblossom the Possum” is about siblings, and about the connections of family, also for looking out for each other. Like “Charlotte’s Web,” or “Babe the Gallant Pig,” the book tells a story through the eyes of animal characters. I think that possums have been ignored in children’s literature. The possum is the only marsupial in North America. The babies grow up in a pouch. The possum has more in common with a kangaroo than with a rat, and yet they are mistaken for rodents. Possums live among us. Unlike the pigs and farm animals in “Charlotte’s Web” and “Babe,” a possum can be spotted in the city (I live in Los Angeles) or in the country. They wiggle across the streets of this country looking for slugs and snails and rotten fruit. They hang from trees when they are young. They are the performers of the animal world. I think they are very special.
HBE: Tell us about the collaborative process with first-time illustrator Gary Rosen. How does his artistry enhance your storytelling?
HGS: First-time illustrator Gary Rosen is my long-time husband. He’s a TV and film writer by trade, but an amazing artist who up until now has kept his talent a secret. From the very beginning, Gary was drawing pictures. I would read the book aloud and he would then go off and draw. It was great fun for both of us. It is rare for an author to meet the illustrator of the book. That sounds crazy, but the authors and illustrators almost always live in different places and they work on different timelines. An illustrator begins when the author is finished. That wasn’t the way we worked. I think that having my best friend draw the possums was the greatest thing that happened in making this book.
HBE: What advice would you give to those trying to instill a love of/appreciation for reading in their reluctant readers?
HGS: I have two sons and the eldest was not a big reader as a kid. I did everything that I could to encourage him to read books at night. We kept a reading log and I tried to find all kinds of things for him to read. But it just wasn’t a strong interest. However today, as an adult in his twenties, he reads more than anyone in our family. So how did that happen? What was his path?
I think that some children are natural readers and they seek comfort and joy early on from the written word, but others need time to find their way to books. I was speaking in a school in England and a small boy raised his hand and asked me this question: “Miss, you say that my life would be better if I read books. But I don’t like to read. So how do I start? How can I change?” I told him that he could read the sports section of a newspaper. He could read a comic book or a graphic novel. I said he could look at words in many different ways and that he could start slowly. I asked him to spend just ten minutes every day looking at a magazine or at some writing on a computer and to make it habit to find out something new every day this way. Small steps can lead to big things.
HBE: In your opinion, what is the role of the bookstore within its community?
HGS: Bookstores are vital to our culture. It is imperative that people understand that many online retailers are prepared to lose money in order to get business and that traditional stores cannot just become showrooms for books. If that happens, if customers go look in bookstores but then go home and buy online to save money, bookstores will disappear. When that happens a meeting place goes away. A literary center vanishes. A spot for children to go see a collection of knowledge is no longer there. Bookstores, like libraries, affirm that we care about ideas. They tell all of us that thoughts and language of previous generations matter. Bookstores encourage ideas and learning. It should feel joyous to spend an extra bit of money to purchase a book in a bookstore because it is a statement of support. Books matter and people who sell books, independent booksellers most especially, are not out to become billionaires. They do it because they love literature. Bookstores are happy places.
HBE: Leave us with a teaser: what comes next?
HGS: My next book is in some ways like “Counting by 7s.” It is about eight weeks in the life of a young girl. It is about a summer that changed her life for the better. It’s about growing up when you least expect it. It’s (I think) the most humorous book I’ve ever written.
With thanks to Holly Goldberg Sloan for her generosity of time and thought and to Kaitlin Kneafsey, Publicity Assistant for Penguin Young Readers, for facilitating this interview.
Don’t forget: The author will appear at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison this Thursday, October 1st, at 5:00 p.m.